"The nature of this mission is such that we need to keep a low profile, so: land vehicles only, fast enough for emergencies but plausible for interstate travel." Batman set the tablet down. "Any questions."
Flash threw up both his arms. "Road trip!"
"That's not a question."
"I'm out," Aquaman said, sliding on a pair of sunglasses. He had his chair tilted back so he could cross his boots on the table.
"I'm shocked," said Batman, who was not shocked.
"Aquaman!" Wonder Woman protested. "Don't you want to ride with me? It will be fun! I'm told there are giant balls of twine in the desert."
"This is a mission," Batman reminded her. "There are no balls of twine between here and the base."
"We can take a detour after we're done," she suggested, not to be dissuaded.
"Obviously I love giant balls as much as the next man," Aquaman said, leading Batman to slowly shake his head. "However: this whole trip is landlocked. And I have business in the ocean to take care of."
Wonder Woman narrowed her eyes. "Is this business a redhead?" Rather than deny it, Aquaman grinned, rows of gleaming white shark's teeth sharp as daggers.
"And is it related to giant balls?" Flash added.
"Or blue ones?" Green Lantern continued further.
Wonder Woman looked between them. "I feel like I'm missing something."
"Travel arrangements," Batman announced, picking his tablet back up. "For logistical reasons we'll be traveling mostly in pairs, I've chosen groups strategically, don't try to argue, I know where you live."
"I'm not clear on who that last part was addressed to," said Green Arrow.
"All of you. Arrow, you're with Flash."
The Flash pumped his fists. "Yesss—I drive!"
"Absolutely not," Green Arrow said immediately.
"Martian, you're with Firestorm."
"Shotgun," Firestorm said immediately.
Martian Manhunter looked at him. "You both get shotgun," he reminded him.
Firestorm scratched his chin. "Right."
"Hawks, you're not coming on this one because we all remember Utah."
Hawkman buried his face in his hands, shaking his head. Hawkgirl had her fists on her hips, and was laughing, her tongue curled down to her chin.
The tongue was how they knew the laugh was genuine.
"Superman, you're with Green Lantern."
Green Lantern and Superman's eyebrows both shot up. "Really?" they both asked, before exchanging glances.
Wonder Woman's eyes widened. "Does that mean—"
"—I'm with you?"
Batman was expressionless, a fact which meant less than nothing. Wonder Woman was delighted. Aquaman frowned. "Wait, where was I in the seating arrangement?"
Aquaman took his feet off the table to sit upright, leaning forward with his brow furrowed. "Why not?"
"You weren't going to come on this mission."
"You didn't know that for sure."
Aquaman slammed his palm onto the table. "I've changed my mind!" he announced. "I will join you for this mission."
"Fine," Batman said, not missing a beat. "You can join Green Arrow and The Flash."
They all looked to where the two men were hunched over Flash's phone, trying to figure out playlists. "I'm not spending five hours listening to electropop," Arrow was saying. "I get enough of that at home."
"And thank God, if it were up to you it'd be nothing but butt rock."
"That's not a genre."
"My car is a no Nickelback zone."
"You don't even have a car, you run everywhere."
"Legally, everything in a three foot radius of me is a car."
"That's not a law."
"It should be."
"I've changed my mind," Aquaman announced as he stood. "Atlantis needs me."
"Uh-huh," Batman said, tapping something on his tablet. Superman stood as Aquaman left, circling the table to talk to Batman. Green Lantern watched him go with a frown.
"Something wrong?" Martian asked him.
Hal leaned over despite knowing that multiple people in the room had super-hearing. "Does Superman not like me?" he asked.
J'onn smiled. "Go talk to him."
Hal was dubious, but also considered that J'onn very likely knew something he didn't. He was also the person least likely to try to fuck with him. He stood, and headed toward where Superman and Batman were talking.
"No," Batman said.
"What if I just fly?"
"I've already explained why that won't work."
Green Lantern cleared his throat. "Something wrong?"
Superman smiled. "No, not at—"
"He was hoping to have a chance to relax," Batman explained, not looking up from his tablet.
"... but I don't know your secret identity," Green Lantern said, finishing the thought. "But you do know mine," he reminded him.
"That's true," Superman said, "but—"
"I'm not complaining," Green Lantern assured him, although it was unfair. "I just mean, you're aware that I was in the Air Force."
"I am, yes."
"While I served I had plenty of nights out with superior officers, and whatever you do to relax, it can't come close to what they do to relax. And it never impaired my ability to follow orders in the field."
Batman looked up as he set the tablet back down. "It won't kill you to loosen up around him," he agreed.
Superman rolled his eyes. "You're one to talk. When exactly are you going to loosen up?"
"I thought I had."
"You can have the aux cord," Green Lantern offered, half-joking, but Superman perked up immediately.
"What kind of music do you like?" Superman asked.
"Oh, I like anything," Lantern assured him. "Except rap and country."
Batman's mouth twitched.
"Sometimes I like to sing along," Superman warned.
"I won't hold it against you if you don't hold it against me," Green Lantern assured him.
Superman grinned. "It's settled, then!"
Wonder Woman gasped and snapped her fingers. "Testicles!" she said, and Batman turned his head to look at her. "They were making a joke about testicles." She sighed. "I always forget about those."
"… I'm not even going to touch that," Batman said.
"Apparently neither is she," Green Lantern said, and Superman shook his head. "What? Too much?"
Superman headed for the door, and Green Lantern followed. "Secretly, I think he just didn't want to listen to my music," Superman said, nodding toward Batman.
Green Lantern laughed, clapping Superman on the shoulder. "Well, we can't all be cranky old men."
Wonder Woman had stood to come up beside Batman, and she brought her mouth close to his ear. "How upset do you think Hal will be when he finds out you're both younger than he is?" she asked, voice low and just loud enough for him to hear.
"Ideally, we'll never know." It was hard to tell, with the mask in the way, but she thought Bruce might have been turning a little pink.
It was two hours before they first stopped for gas, and Hal made a beeline to Batman. He didn't bother with pleasantries.
"Carly Rae Jepsen," he hissed between his teeth.
"She has a new album out," Batman said dryly, as if the explanation helped.
"Two straight hours of Carly Rae Jepsen." Batman said nothing. "He was singing," Green Lantern added. "In her voice."
"Perfect voice mimicry," Batman said, as if Green Lantern were not now intimately familiar with the ability.
"He didn't change any of the pronouns."
"He generally doesn't."
"He's been singing about boy problems. He's been dancing. He did this..." Green Lantern trailed off, half-sputtering.
"Was it the thing with his hips."
"He was sitting! How did he do that sitting down!" Green Lantern pointed an accusatory finger at Batman. "You knew this would happen."
"The thought occurred to me."
"Hey," Superman said over the League communicator, "do you guys know if Tove Lo is any good? One of my friends just liked one of her songs."
"I don't know if you'll like it," Batman responded immediately, "but I know you won't like that she liked it."
"I want to renegotiate these seating arrangements," Hal said.
"That's easy for you to say, you've got the princess."
"We all have our crosses to bear."
"Hey guys, what are we..." Barry trailed off as he realized he was the only one not in costume. "Why are you—I thought we were doing this in street clothes?" Batman regarded Barry's monster truck t-shirt in silence. "Because we're keeping things on the down-low? Which is why Green Arrow had to wait in the car because he just said that so he wouldn't have to pump gas and I would look stupid didn't he."
"He did," Batman said.
"Now everyone knows my secret identity!"
"We already knew."
"Why are we still in costume?" Green Lantern asked.
"You'd be surprised how little it matters."
A car slowed beside them, and a woman stuck her head out the passenger window. "Do you guys do parties?" Silently, Batman pulled a card out of his belt and handed it to her. "Thanks!" she said, and they pulled away.
"What did you just give her?" Barry asked.
"I know a guy."
The bell on the gas station door rang. They all turned and watched as someone who was clearly a shapeshifted J'onn walked out juggling enormous frozen drinks and what could only be termed a bucket of nachos. He'd arranged Oreos on top of the nachos.
"What if Martians actually just eat normal stuff," Barry suggested, "and he's just pretending it's an alien thing to cover for the fact that he's weird?"
I heard that.
"Look," Green Lantern said to Barry, "don't you think it's weird that Batman's running point and he gave himself a BMW?"
"Hey, yeah," Barry agreed. "Why do you get the nice car?"
"Are you suggesting the Princess of Themyscira deserves any less."
"Okay," Barry said, "but that doesn't explain why I'm in a Ford Fiesta."
"Because you're with Arrow," Batman said, "and I wanted to put him in a Ford Fiesta."
Barry, who knew Arrow's secret identity, nodded. "Yeah, okay. That's fair."
"Why am I in a pickup truck that looks like it's spent the last thirty years in someone's front yard on cinder blocks?" Green Lantern demanded.
"I thought it would make Superman more comfortable."
"Why would it—" Hal narrowed his eyes. "Be honest. Is Superman from Texas?"
"For that to be true," Batman said, "it would need to be possible for a man to be from Texas without telling anyone about it for years."
"What about J'onn's Prius?" Barry asked.
"He wanted to bring his own car."
I'm not letting this satellite radio subscription go to waste.
"Stop eavesdropping," Batman said.
I'm participating in a conversation relevant to me.
Superman got on the communicator again. "So, if someone also liked a song called 'Make Me Like You', that's probably a good sign, right?"
"We've already discussed this," Batman sighed.
"Generally, sure, but specifically—"
"I mean using official channels to ask for relationship advice," Batman clarified.
"Flash does it all the time," said Firestorm, still sitting in the Prius. "When he wants to ask about kissing his sister."
Barry turned beet-red. "She's not my sister!"
"Stepsister," Green Arrow suggested helpfully.
"Not any kind of sister!" Barry insisted. "We grew up together, that's all!"
"In the same house," Firestorm said.
"Raised by the same man," Green Arrow added.
Green Lantern was making a face. "You've been trying to hook up with your sister?"
"She's not—you know what? I don't need to explain myself to you people, let me know when we're ready to go." Barry stormed back to the Ford Fiesta.
"If J'onn were running point on this, he'd let me ride with someone else," Hal said.
No I wouldn't.
Wonder Woman came out of the gas station, holding up her phone and a bag of cherries. "They had wifi!" she announced. "Ology is the album, yes?" Batman gave an almost imperceptible nod. She looked pleased beyond measure as she joined him and Green Lantern. "And I have found more Elvis," she added, almost a threat.
"And the cherries are...?" Green Lantern prompted.
Wonder Woman looked down at the little plastic bag. "Ah! If I can tie the stems together into a fullerene using only my tongue, Batman will sing me Elvis."
"That wasn't actually intended as a challenge," Batman said.
"You're backing out?" Wonder Woman asked suspiciously.
Batman sighed. "We'll see," he said, and she grinned.
"I'm ready whenever you are," she said, turning on her heel to head back for the BMW.
"We all have our crosses to bear," Green Lantern hissed accusatorily.
"If you want my advice," Batman said, "ask him to put on his flying playlist."
"His flying playlist," Green Lantern repeated, suspicious.
"I put you two together for a reason. Just ask."
"If I end up listening to Disney songs, I'm becoming a supervillain," Green Lantern warned.
Superman came out of the gas station still frowning at his phone.
"What are you wearing."
Superman looked down at himself, at the t-shirt stretched tight over his costume. It had his logo on an American flag, with an eagle behind it. "Oh, yeah! The guy saw me taking a picture of it, so he said I could have it for free. Really sweet guy."
"You didn't have the heart to tell him you were admiring it ironically."
Superman sagged. "I did not."
The communicator clicked as Barry opened the channel back up. "I know you guys were probably joking," Barry said, "but I really just want to be clear that I'm not in love with my sister."
"I was thinking that on the way back, you put on the flying playlist again, but this time—"
"Actually," Superman said, "now that we're done here, I can just fly home."
Green Lantern paused. "Oh. Yeah. I suppose I can, too, for that matter."
"Not that I wouldn't love some more Kenny Loggins time," Superman assured him. "I just really need to shower." Whatever he used to keep his hair in check was failing, more curls escaping than the usual one; freckles had appeared across his nose after an explosion, slashes in his costume revealing that he had them on his shoulders.
"I get it," Green Lantern assured him. His own costume was fine, a fringe benefit of the ring that it repaired itself. "It's been a long day."
Behind them, the ground and all that it had hidden smoldered.
Superman lifted himself effortlessly off the ground, tattered cape waving in the breeze. "See you at debrief tomorrow," he said with a wave of two fingers. Then he took off.
"Why is it," Flash asked, having appeared silently beside Green Lantern, "that whenever he gets battle damage, it's attractive?"
"What?" Hal asked.
"I mean it's always showing off all these muscles, and he gets those cool freckles. Whenever I get battle damage, it's like..." Barry gestured to the hole in his mask above his eye. "Showing off my one missing eyebrow, or it's right on that awkward part of my back that looks like a fat roll but isn't." Hal immediately looked to the tear in the back of Flash's costume. "It's not a fat roll."
"What's going on now?" Green Arrow asked, heading toward them. He'd lost his hat, so his hair fell all gold half in front of his eyes; he'd lost his shirt entirely.
"Oh, and now I have this to deal with?" Flash asked, horrified, gesturing to all of Green Arrow. "Nuh-uh. No way. I'm not driving home with that. I'm running, you can listen to your butt rock alone."
"What?" Green Arrow asked, also horrified. "You can't leave me out here with a Ford Fiesta. That's not fair, I'm the only one who can't fly." But the Flash was already gone. "Dammit, Barry."
"I can't fly, either," Batman reminded him. Wonder Woman was beside him. They both looked a bit scuffed, but no one's clothes had suffered quite as much as Superman's. The price of playing human shield as a matter of course.
"That's why you're going to drive me," Wonder Woman said. "The brochure at the station said there is a mystery spot."
"The mystery is why anyone goes there."
"Can I come?" Green Arrow asked.
"Not dressed like that you're not," Batman said before Wonder Woman could respond. "Which is not to say that we're going anywhere," he added for her benefit.
"We can take you home," Firestorm said, landing in a pool of flame. "J'onn has to get his car home, anyway. He's getting it right now."
Firestorm made a face. "You're not actually going to make us listen to Nickelback, are you?"
"Based on the way you're asking? No. No I am not."
"I need to get back to my lantern," Hal said, taking to the air.
"Debrief is at ten tomorrow," Batman told him.
"Got it," Hal said, before rising too high to chat. Higher and higher, enough to pick out landmarks to head toward home. Had to get home, had to pick up dinner—might grab something at the store on the corner.
"Going to the store, to the st—oh, goddammit, he got it stuck in my head."